November 24, 2008

Art empowers Native prisoners

Exhibit spotlights Oregon’s native American prisonersBecause of the sad history of these people, which is only now beginning to be addressed in a compassionate way, it isn’t uncommon to have three generations of Native Americans from one family all in the prisons of Oregon. And not just men; between l977 and 2004, the rate at which we incarcerate women increased by 700 percent. These people are warehoused. In Oregon almost nothing is done to rehabilitate them. We lock the door and throw away the keys. And when they do get out, if they do, they can’t find jobs and they can’t find places to live. Thirty percent of them go back in again.

In Oregon there is now an organization that is trying to do something about it, at least for the Native Americans in the system. It is called Red Lodge Transition Services, and they have come up with a way to make these invisible people visible—through their art.

“Native American Art Empowers ‘Invisible People.’” That’s the name of the exhibit now traveling around the state, and it’s coming to Bandon in December.
And:It features works by more than 50 Native American artists incarcerated in the 14 facilities of Oregon’s prison systems. They have all donated their art, which has been handsomely framed by framers, to raise money for Red Lodge Transition Services, a nonprofit organization that helps inmates transition to successful life back in our communities. There is some amazing artwork here. I went up to Eugene on Nov. 8 to see the show and was impressed with what these men and women have been able to create with the simplest materials: colored pencils, regular pencils, small sheets of paper, ball point pens.

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